Site Records

Site Name: Rochonvillers (Maginot Line Gros Ouvrage and later nuclear command bunker)

Thionville Fortified Sector
2.2 kM north east from Angevillers Church

RSG site visit 5th May 2003

[Source: Nick Catford]

The GROS OUVRAGE OF ROCHONVILLERS is the most northerly fort in the 'Thionville Fortified Sector'. It's located 10 kM north west of Thionville on military land close to Angevillers.

When fully manned the fort had a compliment of 782 troops. Artillery included three 135 mm heavy mortars in retractable turrets and the fort also boasted the largest block anywhere on the Maginot Line, Block 5, which took 6,000 cubic metres of concrete to build it. It was armed with three 75 mm guns and one 135 mm heavy mortar. Although several similar sized casemates were planned no others were built so this one is unique. This is an unusually large fort with 5 artillery blocks and 3 infantry blocks and tunnels stretching 2,500 metres from the munitions entrance.

After the war the fort was retained by the army and during the 1980's was converted into a nuclear protected underground control centre, remaining operational until 1998. Visits to the bunker have always been declined in the past but on 15th May 2003 a party from Subterranea Britannica were permitted to visit and photograph the bunker which is still under the control of the Metz Garrison.

When we first looked at the munitions entrance block from outside the perimeter fence in 2000, the French flag was still flying and there were several cameras trained on the entrance gate to the fenced enclosure. When we drove past two years later the flag had gone and the cameras looked as if they were no longer in use. Our army guide, a Lieutenant from Metz Garrison came into the bunker with us and stayed there throughout the two hour visit, but we were able to wander round freely and photograph anything we saw.

The munitions entrance in the 1940's

We went in through the old men's entrance, which was rebuilt during the modernisation with a blast wall added in front of the entrance forming a covered entrance porch. Soil has been piled over the bare concrete of the block and the whole structure has been painted in camouflage colours. The munitions entrance has been modified in a similar way with a large steel blast door allowing vehicles to drive into the block.

The men's entrance has a steel grille and behind it a smaller blast door. Once through the door there is a security post with a bank of TV monitors for the CCTV cameras and a large control panel. Beyond this a door on the right leads through an air lock with two blast doors into the decontamination area. This is contained within one of the infantry positions for the old fort.

A new lift has been installed in the original shaft and the stairs around it have been renovated. The stairs are now very damp and slippery, as are most of the floors throughout the bunker.

The munitions entrance photo by Robin Ware

Since the ventilation has been turned off the bunker has been deteriorating and will no doubt continue to do so unless a new owner can be found; the army is hoping to sell the bunker. At the bottom of the stairs the main corridor runs northwards into the bunker. The original narrow gauge tramway is still there but the overhead traction cables have been removed and tubular ventilation trunking now hangs from the ceiling.

Photo: One of the new Poyaud diesel generators
Photo by Nick Catford

The first door on the left opens into the plant area (Usine). The original generators have been removed and replaced with four gleaming new Poyaud diesel generators with only 467 hours on the clock.

Block 5 - The largest block on the Maginot Line

Beyond these is the ventilation plant room, again the original equipment has been stripped out and new fans and ventilation plant installed. Beyond this is the main control room with its impressive operator's console where all the electrical systems throughout the bunker were monitored and controlled. To the right is a long room with gleaming racks of electrical switchgear along both walls.

Another chamber houses the HV power equipment with gleaming yellow cabinets lined up along one wall.

For more information and photographs click here

[Source: Nick Catford]

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Last updated 12th June 2003 
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